Oscars Predictions – 02/28/2016

It’s an hour before the Oscars starts, and I’m typing this from my phone, so let’s keep this short and sweet. I’m going to come back and update later with my score!

Best Picture:

Who I want to win – Mad Max. The only three I saw last year were The Revenant, The Martian, and Mad Max. I loved all three, and it’s hard to choose between them. The Revenant is close for me, but Mad Max is a genre film with a strong female protagonist in Furiosa with an amazingly simple but satisfactory plot and terrific cinematography and stunts. It would be a very different sort of film for the academy to award.

My prediction – The Revenant. It wouldn’t surprise me if I goes to Spotlight though.

Actual Winner – Spotlight (MAN! I should have gone with my gut on this one!)
Best Director:

Who I want to win – Alejandro G. Inarritu.

My prediction – Alejandro G. Inarritu.

Actual Winner – Alejandro G. Inarritu.
Lead Actor:

Who I want to win – Leonardo DiCaprio. I thought he acted very well, and I didn’t see most of the others to compare, but more than that we can finally put the whole Leo-never-wins thing behind us.

My prediction – Leonardo DiCaprio

Actual Winner – Leonardo DiCaprio (Yeah, this was practically a guarantee)
Lead Actress:

Who I want to win – no opinion (I didn’t see any of these films)

My prediction – Brie Larson.

Actual Winner – Brie Larson.
Supporting Actor:

Who I want to win – Sylvester Stallone. Nice comeback role and his best acting in forever.

My prediction – Sylvester Stallone

Actual Winner – Mark Rylance – WHAAAAAAAAT? O.o Completely blindsided here.
Supporting Actress:

Who I want to win – No Opinion (Didn’t See the Films)

My prediction – Rachel McAdams (they might give Spotlight a nod here.)

Actual Winner – Alicia Vikander (Turns out the nod to spotlight was a liiiiiittle off in terms of category. O.o )
Animated feature:

Who I want to win – Inside Out. Great film. One of Pixars best, in my opinion.

My prediction – Inside Out (come on, this is a freaking lock)

Actual Winner – Inside Out (Deservedly so. This film gets some retroactive flack by some people for some reason. It was a great film!)

Who I want to win – The Revenant. I was incredibly impressed by the beauty of the cinematography in this film combined with the difficulty of the process they used to make it. Completely deserved.

My prediction – The Revenant

Actual Winner – The Revenant
There are plenty of others but these are the ones I’m predicting tonight.

See you guys later!

2011 Oscar Predictions

I pondered writing about a variety of topics for this post, but I decided to go simple and just talk Oscars. Before we get into the meat of the post, if you need a handy guide to who has been nominated this year for each category, feel free to go to this link. I won’t be listing all of them off, so I thought you should have the list available. So let’s get started!

“Black Swan”
“The Fighter”
“The Kids Are All Right ”
“The King’s Speech”
“127 Hours”
“The Social Network”
“Toy Story 3″
“True Grit”
“Winter’s Bone”

I’m not the first, nor the last, to say that any film who’s director wasn’t also nominated has a steep hill to climb. That’s merely historical precedent talking. So most of the films on here don’t have a chance, including Winter’s Bone, 127 Hours, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3 and Inception (which is a major snub if I may say so! Christopher Nolan deserved a nomination at least!)

I think The Fighter doesn’t really have a shot here. It simply wasn’t big enough among the contenders. True Grit is a western done right, by all accounts, and Hollywood hasn’t seen that in a long time not to mention the genre is in its wheelhouse. But it’s a re-done John Wayne movie, which is blasphemy to some, not to mention a Cohen Brothers film not too unlike their previous film, so I think they’ll skip it this year. Black Swan is an outside contender who might dance its way past the heavier hitters if the vote is split enough ways, but it is a strange film. I don’t see it going all the way.

That leaves The King’s Speech and The Social Network. Both films are opposite of one another. The Social Network is relevant as a snapshot of today’s culture, not to mention extremely well done in all respects. The King’s Speech is also supposedly well done and is receiving a sort of warm ground-swell of support, not to mention it is more in line with the Academy’s tastes historically. This is the fight to watch.

Who will win: The Social Network. The Academy wants to stay relevant itself, and a good way to start doing it is to start evolving to the times. Awarding this film will do that, at least in their own eyes.

Who Should Win: The Social Network. It is true that as a snapshot of modern culture, only Scott Pilgrim was anywhere near the modern cultural relevance and pathos of The Social Network. The appropriateness of the film for today’s audience is impeccable.

Who I want to win: Inception. I can’t help it, I’m a nerd. I’ve already said why I liked it in My Review. My second pick would have probably been Scott Pilgrim (which isn’t on the list for obvious reasons) or Toy Story 3. That trio make up my favorite films of the year.

David Fincher

Darren Aronofsky for “Black Swan”
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for “True Grit”
David Fincher for “The Social Network”
Tom Hooper for “The King’s Speech”
David O. Russell for “The Fighter”

I feel that the list of directors is going to fall in almost the same fashion as my prediction for the Best Film category. Aronofsky is skilled but too out-there. The Cohen Brothers have already won for this type of thing, and Russell doesn’t really have a shot amongst the big hitters. Hooper made a great film with The King’s Speech, but in the end his obscurity and the Academy’s likely pick of The Social Network will give this to Fincher.

I think it is an utter shame that Nolan didn’t get nominated in this category. I really believe that he was pick number 6, and just got squeezed out by directors the Academy thought were a little more “classy” or what have you. I would have replaced either Russell or the Cohen Brothers, and of the two I’d definitely drop Russell.

Who will win: Fincher

Who should win: Fincher

Who I want to win: Christopher Nolan (dagnabbit!)

Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
James Franco in “127 Hours”
Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”

Both Eisenberg and Franco are not anywhere near the real running. Franco is a nod to 127 Hours, which won’t get an award otherwise, and Eisenberg is here because you can’t have a Best Film of the year without nominating those involved in other categories (right? Oh, wait… sorry Nolan). Still, neither one have a real shot. Bridges got the award last year, and as much as I think the Academy will give True Grit a nod with an award somewhere, it isn’t here. Bardem might have a shot, but I don’t think it is half a chance in the face of Colin Firth’s performance. Besides, awarding Firth here is a perfect way to award The King’s Speech which won’t win Best Film.

Who will win: Firth

Who should win: Firth

Who I want to win: Bridges. – Hey, man, he was the best actor in Tron: Legacy by a long shot. Everything I hear about him in True Grit movie says he deserves it too.

Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

I really don’t see how this could be anyone other than Portman. It’s an easy way to award Black Swan and she’s the darling of Hollywood for the moment. And you know, she kinda deserves it too..

Who will win: Portman

Who should win: Portman

Who I want to win: Olivia Wilde-I’M KIDDING! (Katie I’m really kidding!) I didn’t see any of these movies, so I’d give it to Mary Elizabeth Winstead for her role in Scott Pilgrim (Hey, I loved that film, alright? Though she might be more supporting than lead in that film. Yeah. Okay then, no opinion.)

Christian Bale's Method acting; He creepified himself for the role.

Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”
While this could easily go to Rush, I think it’s a tad more likely that it’s going to Bale; Partially because he’s a great actor and probably did a great job, but also because the Academy will want to give a nod to The Fighter somewhere.

Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

I have little to go on in this category, but I’d say that any votes that go to the ladies from The Fighter will be split amongst themselves, and that’s if the Academy didn’t give the award to Bale for best supporting actor (which they will.) I think this is going to Steinfeld, partially because from what I hear her “supporting” role was practically a leading role and because the Academy wants to give True Grit some love somewhere.

Who will win: Steinfeld

Who should win: Steinfeld

Who I want to win: Truly? No opinion. If you say Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a supporting actress in Scott Pilgrim, then her, otherwise I have no idea.

Okay, now that the big awards are out of the way let’s do a quick rundown of the rest of them.

Foreign Language Film: No Idea, but if Bardem can make it into the Best Actor category, I’d say that Biutiful has the best shot.
Best film Editing: The Social Network.
Best Documentary: Even less of an idea than Foreign Language, so I’ll just say… Waste Land.

Best Animated Feature Film: Though I have a soft spot in my heart for How to Train Your Dragon, it has to be Toy Story 3.
Best Visual Effects: Inception.
Best Original Song: “Coming Home”

Best Original Score: Inception (Though, from what I hear The Social Network has a fantastic score)
Best Cinematography: Inception (It had better win for the hallway fight alone).

Best Sound Mixing: Inception
Best Sound Editing: Inception
Best Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland
Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland (It should be Harry Potter, dagnabbit. I like where they’ve taken the series’ visual feel.)

Best Makeup: The Wolfman (I only say this because I actually liked the film and would like to see it recognized for something.)
Short Film (Animated): The Lost Thing (Again, this is me being a fan-boy rooting for the nerd-team.)
Short Film: No Idea. Uh…. Na Wewe?
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): The Social Network (Though you might see 127 Hours squeak out a victory here.)
Writing (Original Screenplay): Inception

That’s all I’m taking about today, folks. I might get around to talking about my opinions on Handheld gaming, now that Sony’s revealed its “Next Generation Portable” but if I do, it’ll be in a few days at least. I’ve also got to consider the possibilities of adding some new players to D&D nights, as two people have expressed interest. We shall see, eh?

I’m out!

– Edward L. Cheever II

T.R.U.T.H.’s LSD Kills Mothers While The Koran Plays Videogames in the Smithsonian


Sorry about not having a new blog ready for the weekend guys, but that’s what Spring Break will do to you. Currently I’m up visiting Katie in Oklahoma and I’m loving it. ^___^ Unfortunately, she doesn’t have internet at her apartment, and so we’re right now at the OSU Library. So, late or not, here’s a brand-spankin’ new blog post for you all. I’ve got a few things to go over first, but at the end I’m including my first rough draft (very rough) of an opinion article I’m hoping to publish on the Southwesterner. It’s an article about the recent school assembly involving a traveling evangelist group called T.R.U.T.H. and their message about the “evils” of secular music. Feel free to rant, rave and discuss as you will (just stay on topic, please.)

Let us begin.

Only My Table Will Be Bigger!

On My Last Blog, I talked a lot about my experiences(or lack thereof) with D&D. As a follow up, I’ve found This Forum Post (thanks to BoingBoing.com) in which they have a bunch of pictures of a room they built especially for D&D games. WANT. One day, should I ever be so lucky to build my own house, I’m gonna build me a room like that (maybe minus a demon skull or two.) The library and videogame room come first, of course, but I’m building me a board game/D&D room right after that. Yes yes.

Good show, Mrs. Bigelow! (Bad show, Mr. Martin and Baldwin!)

Keep up the theme of Stuff-I’ve-Talked-About-Before, I’m sure some of you (oh, theoretical, dedicated and interested reader, you) have been wondering if I’d do a follow up post about My Oscar Predictions and the results. In a word: Nah. Mostly because I got all the big stuff right, so I have no comment, and I got the small stuff wrong, which I wasn’t as interested in. On the one big one I got wrong (In which I guessed Avatar over Hurt Locker for Best Picture) I pretty much agree with This AMC Blog Post By John Scalzi point for point. Since somebody already said it better than I could, I’m just going to point you in the right direction. So there.

Oh, and the program itself was lousy, for the most part. The two hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, had absolutely no chemistry. I really thought they’d do better than that.

What are you Doing, Dave?

Keeping, yet again, in the theme of Stuff-I’ve-Talked-About-Before, the drama over Ubisoft’s ridiculous DRM continues as the Authorization Server Shut Down, leaving most of the paying customers unable to play the games they paid for, while the pirates who already broke the DRM were able to play away. Irony?

I've been there. It's pretty darn cool.

On the positive side of life, I recently read a story about how The Smithsonian Is Embracing Games. After listening to a podcast by Robert Ashley in his series called “A Life Well Wasted,” I already knew that people were making serious attempts at preserving gaming history for the future, but it is always nice to see gaming get further recognition in popular culture and scholarly circles.


Keeping up the positivity for the moment, I found a bunch of pictures that were taken at “The Right Moment” The picture above is one of those, and I think they’re all quite humorous and/or neat.

Your Government at Work?

Unfortunately all things in life cannot be so happy or funny. I tend not to be one to buy into conspiracy theories, and I dismiss theories about the dark dirty secrets our Government has until I see proof, though I know that such things likely happen. Well, recent documents came to light through the efforts of an investigative writer that show that The CIA Had Used Massive Amounts of LSD on a French Town in an Experiment. What can I say aside from the fact that I am ashamed of our Government and its agencies? Things like this… we should not be the perpetrators of them. Whatever happened to being above the level of a criminal? How civilized are we, really? I shudder to suppose.

Moving on.

Heart = Warmed

I also recently read a study that talks about how bad America is at Keeping Mothers Alive During Birth. We’re 40th-on-the-list bad. For being such a supposedly advanced nation, this does not exactly instill confidence. I’m sure there are ways I could tie this into the Health Care debate, but as I don’t have all the facts, I won’t. I will say what the article says, though. It’s systemic. It’s how we do things on a normal basis, and that has to change. I’m still a young, unmarried man with quite a few years (I believe) before I have kids of my own. But I know right now that I don’t want to be terrified for my wife’s life like that. It’ll happen anyway, sure, but there needs to be less reason to be so scared.

Thatsa BIG BOOK!

On a final note before my article on the T.R.U.T.H. assembly, here’s another religious article I read recently that talks about Christians Using The Koran as a Method of Preaching to Muslims. The method is basically one in which missionaries use the Koran’s passages about Jesus to lead Muslims to Christianity.

A Rather Famous Altar

The method has provoked something of a minor backlash by a number of other Christians who think the method is wrong-headed and will leave room for falsehoods in the new convert’s beliefs. Personally I’m all for it. There are a number of reasons I feel this way. First, I see a lot of similarities between religions and I have long believed that it is more important to focus on the good in our similarities, live our lives as kind and loving witness to the Truth, and let the details sort themselves out through individual study. Second of all, there are a number of areas I believe that Christians fail at, or don’t do good enough in, that other religions excel at (Wiccan respect for nature, for example) and if Christians begin looking at similarities between religions for outreach purposes, perhaps some will begin to see the good in others and incorporate that good for a stronger kind of belief. Finally, I believe I have Biblical support for this, as Paul once used a Greek Altar to an “unknown god” as a link between Christianity and the Greek’s own beliefs in an effort to reach them with further truth than they already had (Acts 17:22-31).
That’s all I really have to say about that. *Thumbs Up*

And now on to the (very) rough draft of My Article About the T.R.U.T.H. Assembly. –

Yeah... These Guys...

On March 11, 2010, Southwestern Adventist University was host to a special guest group called T.R.U.T.H. (To Render Unconditionally To Him) who came to talk about the “evils” of Secular Music at Assembly. The group consists largely of individuals who used to work within the music industry as musicians, producers, songwriters, etc. All of this is information you can find out at their website, Truth4Him777.com.

I don’t doubt their sincerity. Besides which, there are certainly truths that can be gleaned from their message. However, after hearing their presentation, I have a number of issues that I have with their message and the way it was presented.

Before I get to that, though, let me reinforce the portions I appreciated. You see, I’ve been party to the music debate for a long time, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard people condemn different kinds of music based solely on their sound. The syncopated rhythm debate, the electric guitar flame wars, etc.; I’ve heard them far too much. These guys did not do that. They did not spout nonsense about style, volume or instrumentation. I appreciated that.

Directly related to that, I’m glad they only focused on the content. In many old debates I would hear, much would be said about the instruments, the clothes, the sound, but not the meaning. The guys of T.R.U.T.H. did not do that, and I applaud them for it.

0 Seconds To Midnight And Counting

Nevertheless, there were more things I did not appreciate. First was the alarmist tone they set. Barely touching on the actual science underlying the power and influence of music, they merely state that it works on the brain, and that it is powerful, to lend a sort of pseudo-scientific basis for their statements. They then went on to describe how all secular musicians try to reach into your brain and implant Devil worship. If I were to ask them plainly, they might deny that they said “all” secular musicians, but they more than implied it by giving these attributes to the music industry as a whole.

The alarmist tone came primarily from their content, of course. But it seemed to me that there was a lot of context to statements that were cut out. A number of video clips ended right after a musician would say something, or specific lyrics would be selected out of a song. This doesn’t necessarily invalidate their argument, but I feel that it is slightly dishonest.

Used Often, Understood Less-So

More important to me though, was the way they discounted the notion of metaphorical speech and humor. They had a number of short clips of musicians such as Bob Dylan, Katy Perry, and Kayne West all saying that they had “sold their soul to the devil.” Bob Dylan’s quote sounds the most authentic and alarming, but it is cut off sharply at the end of his statement, and Kayne West seems to be using the phrase as a metaphor.

Katy Perry’s Comment is one that I find most interesting. She describes her early life, with her parents as traveling ministers and so forth. Se describes how she got into Gospel music, but that didn’t work out, and so she “sold her soul to the devil” to become a secular musician.” The statement to me seems to be very obviously a metaphor, but what I find more interesting is the subtext. From the way she said it, I would not be surprised if she is merely quoting accusations thrown at her by the Christian community, and her parents, for deciding to try secular music. I cannot read her mind to know if that is what she means specifically, but from her tone, and from the context, I would suggest it is likely. I would wager that other Christians shunned her.

You Take This Seriously?

Another clip was played of Jack Black at the VMA awards as an example of a “satanic prayer” in a program they condemned as being “Satanic from beginning to end.” This is a clear example of the guys from T.R.U.T.H. not understanding a joke. Some of my favorite quotes include: “Dear dark lord Satan, hope everything’s good with you,” and, “Just wanted to say ‘Hi!’” If the table was flipped, and Black prayed to Jesus in the same tone and manner, Christians would be right to say that he is making fun of Christianity, right? He’s mocking the whole thing. It is a joke.

Beware!!!! AAAA!!!!

There were many times throughout the presentation where a metaphorical song or phrase was used to point to supposed Satanic messages. I could go on and on about each example, and explain why it is metaphorical, taken out of context, or misunderstood. I could explain how that Fergie’s song “Voodoo Doll” is a metaphor for drugs and addiction. I could explain how Metallica’s cover of “The Prince” is a reference to Machiavelli and his work in which a Prince abandons morals for gain, and that just because something is written or sung in the first person, it isn’t necessarily the view of the writer/singer. For those who doubt that, take an English Literature course some time. They cited so many different musicians and songs that I could go on for a long, long time. I will spare you that, but I will sum up that most, if not all, of the examples were used completely out of the contexts of their metaphorical and artistic conventions.


I am not defending all of these songs. Indeed, I would not recommend most of them. What I’m trying to express is that T.R.U.T.H. is portraying all of these songs as blatant devil worship. The notion is frightening and alarming, true, but it is not honest. There are other reasons why a song might be a bad choice to listen to besides some explicit connection to Satanism. We can condemn songs who promote pointless violence, drug use, greed, pride and the degradation of women. I’m behind that message 100%. But instead these guys relied on sensationalistic portrayals of Satan worship to get across their message.

This leads directly into my biggest complaint. T.R.U.T.H. portrays the issue as entirely black and white. They encourage others to reject all secular music in its entirety, painting anything that comes from the music industry as Satanic. This is not a constructive approach.

Let me give an example from my own life. Just as we all are, I am a sinner. This sin eats away inside of me and turns me into something that I am not. Do we not all become as demons when we sin? There is a song called “Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace. Realizing the sinner I am, I identify with the song. And when the lead singer cries out,

“Help me believe it’s not the real me.
Somebody help me tame this animal!
This animal I have become.”

I feel it in my soul. More than once have I used this very song as a prayer to God, asking for forgiveness.
Here’s an even more extreme example. There have been times in my life when things look grim and I don’t quite have the will to go on. One such time, the song “Lose Yourself” by Eminem reminded me that I’ve got to grab life and hold on dearly if I want to get anywhere and be who God wants me to be. Read the following lyrics and tell me that there is nothing good and inspirational in them:

“You own it, you better never let it go go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo”

Does this change the fact that there are some Eminem songs I won’t listen to? Of course it doesn’t. But if I find something good, I’m not going to throw it away. Paul says in Romans 12:9, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (NIV.) Life is not Black and White, and music is about any artist’s life. I’m more mistrusting of artists who sing what they think is “right” to sing, than what is honestly a part of their life. I find more inspiration in the songs of true struggle and inner conflict like Fergie’s Voodo Doll than I do in bland contemporary Christian music that everybody sings because that is what they are “supposed to sing.”

Of course, by Paul’s words I also shun that which I find wrong and offensive. The T.R.U.T.H. guys had a very shocking clip of Kathy Griffin giving an acceptance speech for an Emmy (what that has to do with music I have no idea) in which she says that Jesus “can suck it.” Obviously I don’t accept that sort of thing. The singers in many of the rap songs that were given as examples lavished praise upon themselves. I can think of a number of rock songs off the top of my head that do the same thing. How many times have I heard a singer degrade women, treating them like objects? I don’t listen to songs like that.

We can still learn from these things, however. How? Well, let’s just ask the question: “Why does Kathy Griffin think the way she does?” We can’t ask her, but there are other examples that might clue us in to why people like Griffin despise Christianity.

Take, for example, Kanye West’s comments, such as: “The Bible had, you know, 20, 30, 40, 50 characters in it. You don’t think I would be one of the characters of today’s modern Bible?” and “Hip-Hop is a Religion.” He goes on to say that a concert is like going to church because you get up and wave your hands and give money. I think the remark is ridiculous, but it reveals something important, that is, it shows us what West thinks about religion. To him, religion is just getting up, waving your arms, dressing a certain way and giving money to the pastor. Why does he have this point of view?

Let's Do It Right, for A Change.

The fact is, as many problems as I had with the presentation by the guys of T.R.U.T.H., they all pale in comparison to the fact that the focus of the outreach is all wrong. If Christians acted more like Jesus, and had a closer relationship with him they would be able to live by their consciences, and what music people are listening to would cease to be an issue, trumped up or not. When people look at Christians they see a façade. They look at our faces with our broad smiles, and they see masks. They know that lurking under the covers is a monster who would sooner lash out than lend them a hand.

How can we expect anything different from people like Kanye and Kathy if we keep giving them fodder for their negative impressions? “As it is written: ‘God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’” (Romans 2:24, NIV.) We need to shift our perspectives back to Christ. Only by becoming closer to Him can we change the outlook of the world. We do not need alarming and context-less scare-fests. We need Christ.

That’s all for today, folks! Have a great Spring Break!

– Edward L. Cheever II

Wicca Precepts, Politial Summits, and The Oscars

A Good Read

Today being the Sabbath, I’ve decided to kick things off with a religious topic today. More specifically, I plan to briefly analyze the Wicca Rede (maxim, precept) – “An It Harm None, Do As Ye Will.” Or, in regular English, “Don’t harm anyone and do as you want (or do what you will do.)”

So, what brought this up? Well I’ve been reading Dies the Fire (which I recommend), by S.M. Stirling, and one of the main protagonists is a Wicca, a Witch for all of you who don’t get my meaning, who mentions this precept at a point in the novel. I read it and though, you know that’s not a bad moral system, really. After thinking on it a while, though, I’m not convinced that it is quite what it should be.

Tolkien was a pretty smart guy.

Now note, I am coming from a Christian perspective here, but I am not outright condemning anything that is associated with Wicca automatically any more than I would Buddhism or any other religion (Yes, Wicca is a religion). Mostly because I believe that most religions are simply corrupted or detail-mistaken worship of the Divine which I identify as the Judeo-Christian God. As Lewis and Tolkien believed, “All the other myths of the world are a mixture of truth and error – truth because they are written by those made by and for God – error because written by those alienated by God. But the Bible is the one true myth. It is a true accounting of truth, while everything else we do is mimicking.” – Tolkien. Read “Till We Have Faces” by C.S. Lewis, sometime.
I also believe that because everything is a mix of truth and error, we can identify and grasp those kernels of truth and cherish them, “There are truths, that are beyond us, transcendent truths, about beauty, truth, honor, etc. There are truths that man knows exist, but they cannot be seen – they are immaterial, but no less real, to us. It is only through the language of myth that we can speak of these truths.” – Tolkien.
I am not going to talk about any of their other beliefs at the moment. I’m just going to examine this one precept. So let’s get started.

Somebody just saw this and panicked. Why?

First, I want to draw your attention to the structure of the sentence, and how it affects the meaning. A lot of people, especially those that want to point fingers leap directly to the “Do what you want” segment. This sound particularly selfish and dangerous by itself, doesn’t it? What if someone wanted to rape or kill someone else?
Of course this is modified by the statement “Do not harm anyone.” I believe this distinction is very important. “Do what you want” cannot modify “Do not harm anyone.” If it did, then there would be no reason to say anything other than “Do what you want.” “Do what you want” is the guide to action. “Do not harm anyone” is the modifier.

Heck Yeah, I'll Do What I Want!

Why do I bring this up first? Because what I’m about to say might surprise you. I do indeed have a problem with the sentence, but it is not with the “Do what you want” part, it is with the “Don’t harm anyone” part.
Does that surprise you? Why does it? “Do what you want” is essentially saying “Live.” How is that a problem? That’s more or less what God said to Adam and Eve in the Garden, isn’t it? There is no problem with doing what you want. The problem only comes when the modifier is insufficient.
And there always is a modifier. God said “Do what you want… just don’t eat of the Tree.” Wiccans say “…just don’t hurt anybody.” Heck, even Ayn Rand’s moral system (which was supposedly objective) had arbitrary modifiers like “guns are not an argument,” and other sayings that essentially mean “don’t do violence.” Some religions have loads of modifiers, such as modern dogmatic Christianity. Some have none, such as Satan Worship (which is really self worship, and no, Wiccans are not Satan Worshipers.)

Note the Inversion that is used to mock the worship of life? Satanism is against Wicca.

But then why do I have a problem with the modifier “Don’t harm anyone?” That’s a good thing isn’t it? Well… yeah. Obviously. (Note that I am working under the common human assumption that violence is a bad thing. I know I’m working from a not entirely objective viewpoint. I’m watching you Cory! 😛 ) It is basically a good thing to do no harm, truly.
My problem with it is simple. It doesn’t go far enough. I can sense some readers backing up now. “Whoa, whoa, what do you mean by that? What kind of strictures are you about to lay down, here?” It’s not so onerous as you might think, but I’ll get to that in a minute. I think it doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t ask people to be better or kinder or stronger, or helpful. I could be a Wicca perfectly abiding by my precepts and still stand by watching a woman be raped and not do anything to help her. Now, there are many Wiccans who would go help a woman in such distress. Let me stress the point that they can be fantastic people, just like Catholics can be (this is a jab at all you Catholic Haters out there who take your beliefs about the Beast of Revelation and use it to denounce your fellow man,) just like Jews can be (I’m looking at you, you dastardly anti-Semitics!)

Could you withold help from that cute little face? Aw!

But a Wicca who goes out of his way to help someone in need is going beyond their precept. They did a good thing, but it was not a part of their religion implicitly.
Now, keep in mind I’m not condemning or insulting them here, and keep in mind that I’m coming from my biased and opinionated point of view, but I think that their precept simply doesn’t go far enough.
So, what would go far enough? There are some of you out there who know I come philosophically to the same conclusion as my Christian beliefs. The conclusion I come to is best summed up by my Lord, Himself,

God is Love.

“Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Mathew 22:37-40(NIV.) Both of those commandments come down to one thing: Love. For a greater understanding of true love, I highly recommend 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
Ultimately I believe that Jesus and Paul in Corinthians say it best, but if I had to sum up for you what I think would be a nice modification of that Wicca Precept it would read thusly:
“Love all with the fullness of thine heart and with all thine actions, and doest what ye will.” – or in modern language, “Love everyone, treat them accordingly, and enjoy life as you wish.” Or you could also say it in Texan, “Love everybody, treat ‘em good, and have fun, yall!” Take your pick, or make your own! 😀

Really briefly, I want to say what I think about the Thursday Summit between Obama, the Democrats and the Republicans. Some people are calling the summit Pointless and Ultimately a Waste of a Day While Politicians Postured. In some ways this is very true. Political posturing was definitely going on during the summit. It was swamping it for that matter, on both sides. And it is also very true that nothing ultimately got agreed upon.

Does anybody else find the pic on the right oddly facinating?

By those standards it is true that the summit was not a wonderful thing. But this point of view misses something in my opinion. Despite the fact that the politicians used this as a stage, it did increase transparency in the government. The summit was unprecedented, and though no work was accomplished, the people of America saw their elected officials trying. Neither side would give an inch, and I don’t think that is surprising to anyone. But as bull-headed as they were, it was a dialogue in the context of working out an agreement. That premise alone instills some vague and small sense of confidence in the idea of the political system. If more summits of this televised kind happened, it would slowly stop merely being a stage and it would turn into a workplace; a workplace that involves every television watching person in America.

By that standard alone, the summit was a success and hopefully the first of many like it. Obama finally kept that particular campaign promise, and it is a breath of fresh air on the political scene. While I believe that The Democrats Have An Obviously Better Plan, I like to see Republicans able to share their ideas (or lack thereof *sigh*) right amongst the Democrats. Being able to compare and contrast in real time, without letting the audience seclude themselves with the one-sided talk-radio show of their choice, means that people can compare and contrast the plans without the immediate and overwhelming spin of one viewpoint (like you might hear from Limbaugh, Hannity or O’Reily.
That’s all I really have to say about that.

Sorry, no more pics. This is what we in the blogosphere refer to as LAZY.

It’s about a week off from the Oscars, so I think it’s time I gave my predictions for the big awards and a few of the minor ones I’m more aware of.
Let’s Start with Best Picture. The nominees are:

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

This is going to be a really interesting year for the Oscars. The academy is obviously trying to rope in new viewers by increasing the number of movies nominated (people will watch if they’re rooting for their favorite movie to win,) but this may backfire on the academy by making it easier for dark horse fare that wouldn’t usually win an Oscar (or be nominated for that matter) to take home the prize. District 9 and The Blind Side would not be there, certainly if it weren’t for the opening up of the races.
Some people think this cheapens the award. I don’t buy that. The award was already cheap, and the only movies that won were movies most people didn’t usually care to see (they should though, there have been many deserving winners over the years). This year is one of the few years that geeks and genre lovers see the award as worth anything.
But how to analyze it…Avatar and The Hurt Locker are the champion horses in this race. Both are likely to win, however the competition between the two may mean that a third party has a chance. There are some fantastic dark horse contenders up there, with Up and Up in the Air, and Inglorious Basterds the three most likely to pull ahead of the big ones.
That’s just it, though. The dark horses are competing with each other for the dark horse spot. For a dark horse to win, they have to be the unseen third party, the big one behind the curtain. If three films are competing for that role, they all end up too small to take on the Mammoth Avatar and Hurt Locker.
So what film do I think will win? Avatar.
Why? Because no one dark horse will show up, and the dark horses are more likely to pull votes away from The Hurt Locker than they will for Avatar. The voters who are going to vote for Avatar love Avatar and that’s all they will vote for. Everybody else is likely voting for something else because they don’t like Avatar (though they probably like their choice for its own merits too). This means that, though Hurt Locker is a big one, it isn’t THE movie that everyone else is rallying behind. Avatar is the 800 lb. Gorilla in the room. If you’re for the gorilla, you’re in its corner. If you’re not for the gorilla, you’re going to spread out to the four winds, wherever you deign to go. Without that unifying film to topple Avatar, Avatar will stomp all over the competition.

Other likely possibilities:
Hurt Locker – A good Iraq war film? The academy loooves that.
Up in the Air – A great movie with George Clooney? Nice!

Favorites that won’t win:
Up – They’re already going to give it the Best animated award *spoilers*
Inglorious Basterds – As great as Tarantino may be, he’s an acquired taste and if there is any one genre fare film that a voter will go for, it’s the epic, classic-Holly-Wood-story, money-making Avatar.
District 9 – Loved the film, but again, if there is one genre film voters can choose they’ll mostly choose Avatar.

On to Best Actor. The nominees are:

Jeff Bridges
George Clooney
Colin Firth
Morgan Freeman
Jeremy Renner

I’ll be honest I know nothing about this race, but it’s one of the big awards, so I got ta choose. If the buzz in Hollywood is anything to go by, I’d say Jeff Bridges is the likely contender for this one, with a possible George Clooney upset victory.

On to Best Director. The nominees:

The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
Up in the Air

This one is a definite race between Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” and her ex, James Cameron, for “Avatar.” Without dark horses nipping away the Hurt Locker’s votes, and given the academy’s desire to award this film, I would say this is the point where Bigelow gets the nod.
Cameron is a heavy force though, and the shepherd of 3-D, the industry’s new darling, so it’s really a toss-up.

On to Best Supporting Actor. The nominees are:

Matt Damon
Woody Harrelson
Christopher Plummer
Stanley Tucci
Christoph Waltz

Again, a contest I know little about. This may be the most mysterious category to me. But I’ve heard excellent things about Christopher Waltz’s performance in Inglorious Basterds. A number of critics have said he was the most riveting part of the movie, and if the academy wants to award something to Tarantino and his Inglorious Basterds, this will be the category to do it in.

On to Best Actress. The nominees are:

Sandra Bullock
Helen Mirren
Carey Mulligan
Gabourey Sidibe
Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep? Again!? She sure can act, though.
But that won’t help her. At this point she’s simply a staple of the category. The real star of this list is Sandra Bullock who had a rollercoaster of a year with some real stinkers (All about Steve) and some really strong performances(The Blind Side). The academy likes an actress who can do a fantastic job even as they start to age and move past their prime. On top of that, The Blind Side is the highest grossing film with a lead actress, and the academy will almost certainly try to award them for that here.

On to Best Supporting Actress. The nominees are:

Penelope Cruz
Vera Farmiga
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Anna Kendrick

Not a contest I’m familiar with, but Mo’Nique has a lot of good buzz and some serious momentum coming off of the Golden Globes. At this point, she’s the one to beat.

On to Animated Feature Film. The nominees are… do we really need to know? We all know what’s going to happen here, right?:
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

Up, obviously. And it deserves it too, if just for the first half of the film. The real shame here is that ALL of the nominees are fantastic (except for possibly Kells. I haven’t seen anything at all from Kells). Every one (besides maybe Kells?) deserves this award.

On to Art Direction. The nominees are:

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

If Avatar had better competition, I’d say this one would be up for grabs more than people would think. A lot of people are simply not able to like the character designs for the Na’vi of Pandora. For whatever reason they are utterly repulsed by blue-skinned cat-like people. Furthermore I’ve seen some people compare the film to a crazed light-brite. So if Avatar had some serious competition things might turn out differently. As it is, Avatar will win, hands down. (And it absolutely should.)

On to Cinematography. The nominees are:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
The White Ribbon

I’ve got to say, I really liked the Cinematography in HP: atHBP. But Avatar will take this one with its sweeping vistas, emotional angles and well-shot action scenes.

On to Film Editing. The nominees are:

District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds

The Hurt Locker is most likely to win this one. Avatar has been criticized for scenes and shots that sometimes go on too long, and District 9’s editing wasn’t the films strongest point. Inglorious Basterds may be a dark horse here.

On to Music (Original Score). The nominees are:

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes

I’m going to suggest that Sherlock Holmes goes home with this one.

On to Music (Original Song). The nominees are:

The Princess and the Frog – “Almost There”
The Princess and the Frog – “Down in New Orleans”
Other stuff…

IMO, this race is just between the Princess and the Frog songs. A lot of people want to reward the return to hand-drawn animated musicals, and this is where they will do it. While I really like the catchy “Almost There” the award will go to “Down in New Orleans” for its range, flavor and content.

On to Sound Editing. The nominees are:

The Hurt Locker
Star Trek
Inglorious Basterds

I want Star Trek to win something, dagnabbit! Thus I say it will win, even though I have no real clue.

On to Sound Mixing. The nominees are:

The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Again, I’m voting Trek. I want it to take away something!

And finally, Visual Effects. The nominees are:

District 9
Star Trek

All three are great visual spectacles, but Avatar wins this hands down for being the first really well-made 3-D film as well as its advances in motion capture and graphical realism (if you’re the kind of person, like me, who can accept blue people.)

Well, that’s all for today, folks! Catchy you later!

– Edward L. Cheever II